EPIC: Discover your Destiny, and live like a Hero!
What is an Epic?
An “Epic” in ancient times was a story (usually a long piece of poetry) which told the story of a hero and his/her mission from tragedy to greatness. We think of the great Epics, like Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, or the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, or the Hindu Mahabharata, or in more recent history – Dante’s Inferno or Milton’s Paradise Lost. In modern times, new Epics have been written – like JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and they all follow a similar storyline.
The mythologist, Joseph Campbell, (19-4-1987), popularized the idea that all of these great Epics – and all great and lasting stories – resonate with us so much because they seem to be allegories of our life. We can relate to them. We see ourselves in those stories – because they are designed that way. Joseph Campbell referred to it as “the heroes journey”. They usually begin with someone who would never be regarded as a hero (a peasant, slave, outcast) who is “called” by some great divine power, to go on a mission. They always fail their mission (or so it seems) and fall into despair – but then learn that when they stop “trying” so hard and start to “believe” instead, they suddenly achieve their mission effortlessly! Sound like something you are interested in learning? Well, there is more. The greatest thing that they discover is not that they were capable of achieving their mission (because they weren’t – not without divine/supernatural help anyway) – the greatest discovery is what they have BECOME as a result of their adventure. It has changed them – made them into a better person (not simply provided a better life). Isn’t that what we all want?
If that sounds familiar, its because all the great movies (from Star wars to Avatar) have deliberately used this storyline, based on Joseph Campbell’s research. The Bible itself is like an Epic novel – in fact it contains many “epics” and many stories of a “heroes journey” through life. And they speak to us! Directly into our lives and circumstances, and they provide wisdom and a roadmap for navigating lives twists and turns. I hope you will journey with me through this series and re-discover the excitement of living! An Epic rings so true to people, regardless of the culture or place in history, because in many ways it is an allegory of each one of our journeys through life.
What is an Allegory?
The “allegorical interpretation” of the Bible has fallen in and out of favour over the last 2,000 years. Sometimes and in some places (like the early church Fathers of Alexandria) it has been a very popular way of explaining spiritual matters and the teachings of the Bible; other times, people have opted for a more ‘literal” approach to scripture. However, the apostle Paul didn’t see that distinction – when speaking of the Exodus and Moses, Paul acknowledges that it was an historical event, but to him the important thing was how it related to the faith and lives of the people he was ministering to – he wrote: (clearly “spiritualizing” the events of history)
1 Corinthians 10
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Again, he mentions the historical story of Abraham, Hagar and Sarah and says this:
Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise. These things are an allegory: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.
John, when writing his highly symbolic (allegorical) book of Revelation, knew that there was an ancient city of Babylon which had become corrupt and had fallen, same with Egypt and the ancient city of Sodom – but he also uses it as an allegory of how corrupt Jerusalem would be overthrown by the Romans in AD 70, when he writes:
“Come, I will show you the punishment of the great harlot, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery: ‘babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth’. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.” – this isn’t talking about the actual city of Babylon – it is using Babylon as an allegory for another city (quite clearly, Jerusalem, because she was “the faithful city which has become a harlot” (Isaiah 1:21) … he makes that clear when he uses the very word “allegory” here:
“the Great City that is allegorically called “Sodom” and “Egypt,” the city where their Lord was crucified.” (Rev 11:8)
Here are some dictionary definitions for “allegory” – two from English and one from ancient Biblical Greek:-
- a story in which the characters and events are symbols that stand for ideas about human life or for a political or historical situation (Websters)
- a story, poem, or picture which can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one: e.g. Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory of the spiritual journey (Oxford)
- From “allos” = other, and “agoreuo” = to speak in place. To speak, not according to the primary or literal sense of the words, but so that the facts stated are applied to illustrate principles. (Vines)
What is my Destiny?
We all have different destinies, and by “destiny”, i don’t mean to imply that everyone is destined for fame, or as a world-changer. We wont all be Billy Graham, or Mother Theresa, or Gandhi (or Gandalf, for that matter) – but we are all here for a reason and a purpose and we all have something to do with our lives that will bring fulfillment to us, bring glory to God, and bring blessings to others – we wont all change the world, but we can change our world, or someones world.
- Recently someone asked me “if you could explain this to the entire world, how would you word it?” – here is my best and most concise shot at it:
- Everyone is born for a reason (regardless of the circumstances of your birth, you are meant to be here at this time in history).
- Everyone is a unique individual, carefully crafted and gifted by God with exactly the gifts, talents and abilities that YOU will need to live YOUR life – stop bothering about what you can’t do or what other people can do better – you are not supposed to live their life, you are supposed to live your life – you don’t need their gifts you need yours.
- Everyone, at some point, feels that they have blown their chance, ruined their life, or messed up too much – but God will forgive you, just ask him – that’s why he sent Jesus – to teach us about a loving God, and to take away our sins & mistakes.
- You will try lots of things and fail many times before discovering your gifts & purpose – that’s the process that everyone goes through. Keep on trying, keep on failing, keep on asking for forgiveness and a fresh start and keep on repeating the process – until you know – REALLY KNOW – who you are and who you are not; what you are gifted to do and what you have zero aptitude for; what makes you come alive and what crushes the life out of you …. that’s how you discover who YOU are and there are two huge benefits of knowing that:
- Once you know who you are, you have discovered what you are here to do! Gifted as a musician, or a business person, or a farmer, or a teacher? Then that’s what you are supposed to do. Your gifts are what comes effortlessly to you, gives you a sense of fulfillment and purpose, helps other people, and makes you come alive.
- The second benefit is this: when you discover who you truly are – you will also discover why God made you and what a kind, good, and happy God he really is – you get to discover yourself and God at the same time; you get to do the things you love and help others at the same time. There is no greater discovery in life than discovering who God really is and who you really are.